Fethiye doesn’t get a mention on the BBC very often but on Tuesday the town’s mayor, Behçet Saatcı was given the opportunity to promote this peaceful Mediterranean town to the Beeb’s millions of listeners on BBC tabloid-style radio programme Five Live Breakfast.
He explained why he thinks people are concerned about coming to Turkey at the moment but also how important it is to get the ‘terrorism issue’ into perspective and that this part of the world is the perfect place to live or come for a holiday, especially this year.
BBC Radio 5 Live Breakfast from Hisarönü and Fethiye
Speaking from Hisarönü, a tourist district of Fethiye, on Tuesday and broadcast across the UK on the BBC 5 Live Breakfast, radio journalist, Nick Garnett, spoke with tourists and business owners before he travelled to Fethiye (via the Erasta AVM, it would seem), where, at the Municipality Offices, he interviewed Behçet Saatcı, asking him about various issues concerning Fethiye in particular and Turkey in general, and the country’s significant decline in tourist numbers this year.
‘Exclusive’ tourism figures
The main news feature on the programme, which altogether lasted for three hours, returned to the subject on several occasions, initially highlighting some “exclusive figures from the travel research company GFK” which, they said, suggests that “thousands of tourists are shunning Turkey and avoiding going to the country’s resorts, resulting in a drop in package holiday bookings of nearly a third in the last year.” This figure was reported to be in the region of 1866,000 lost booking from the UK alone, and despite that fact that “the FCO have said it is generally safe to travel to Turkey but the threat of terrorism is high.”
It appears that the nearly 30% drop in Turkish Tourism has benefited both Spanish and Portuguese tourism – both countries have experienced increases of roughly the same amount.
The item on Turkish tourism began with an explanation from anchorwoman, Clare McDonnell:
British holiday makers are shunning holidays in Turkey this summer. That’s according to exclusive figures seen by 5 Live. Travel research company, GFK, have dropped by nearly a third this year; that’s nearly 186,000 tourists. The UK Foreign Office says it is generally safe to travel to Turkey but the threat of terrorism there is high.
The worst performing holiday destinations according to GFK are Egypt and Tunisia, where the FCO advices against all but essential travel.
But the one thing that was not mentioned, was how the travel advice for Turkey is so similar… compared with France or Spain, for example.
Fethiye’s as safe as London
Speaking through an English interpreter, Saatcı answered a questions posed by Garnett about why he thought so many tourists have turned their backs on Turkey as a holiday destination this year.
BS: There are obvious reasons, as everybody knows, coming from the Middle East and countries bordering with Turkey. These are obvious reasons. There have been a lot of attacks there, a lot of fighting going on but this is not a specific problem of Turkey only. These terror attacks and all these problems have been going on all over the world.
NG: Are you worried about the drop in tourism and what can you do about it?
BS: I believe this is a reality and it should not worry any of us. We have to learn to live with the reality and the reality is that basically, Britain has had a lot of problems as well with the IRA in the past so, is a country … used to terror attacks in its own country and which [has] learned how to live along with it. That’s why these people, the British people, are still coming to us.
NG: I have spoken to tourists today though and they are worried about the risk of a terrorist attack.
BS: We should not scale this as only on Fethiye or as Turkey itself. We should look at it from a different perspective, which would be if Italy, Spain, any country, Paris, Brussels, are as safe as they are, my country is safe as well. The British Ambassador… came to visit me, he wanted to investigate the area … It’s in the interest of the British Government and he was very pleased with the situation. If he … [had] seen any danger, if he [had] seen anything negative, I am sure he would have remarked on this already.
NG: So why is the British government warning about travel to Turkey?
BS: I don’t believe that the British government is warning about travel to Turkey. They are probably warning their citizens about the dangers of the general world. It’s not only specific to Turkey, they’re probably saying ‘please be careful on your travels’ around certain things… but I don’t believe it is a warning against travelling to Turkey.
NG: What message do you have for British tourists who are put off at the moment.
BS: I am not important in this message. The most important thing is that they should ask people who live on the southwest coast of Turkey. I am sure that nearly everybody has a relation, somebody who they know, who lives in this area. Like for instance, in Fethiye we have about 2,000 English brothers and sisters living with us and I think they [should] answer this question. I also believe that anybody coming over [to Turkey] this year is special because they will be treated like they probably never expected before. Every hotel being down on the numbers, they actually have to [look after] their guests [even] better; so, I believe that this is probably the year to come if you want to experience a bit more…
More about the programme
If you would like to listen to the interview with Behçet Saatcı click here.
If you would like to listen to the interview with a British tourist staying in Hisarönü, click here.
If you would like to listen to the interview with hotel owner, Halit Sertan Saraç, click here.
For the whole of the BBC 5 Live Breakfast programme (with a lot more about tourism in Turkey) click here.